Neil Pasilan's Wall of 125 Paintings Tells the Story of His Life

See it up close at Art Fair Philippines.

( It's an age-old idea that art is an expression of oneself, whether it's inspired from a personal experience or a reaction to what's happening around an artist. And for Neil Pasilan, one of the featured artists for Art Fair Philippines 2020, this speaks of truth. His collection of 125 paintings on paper is on display until February 23 on a massive wall at The Link in Makati. "Tingnan niyo ang istorya ng buhay ko," Pasilan tells in an interview, urging us to look not only on his life story, but also ponder about our own.

Norman Crisologo, curator of Art Fair Philippines' special exhibition, saw a pile of Neil Pasilan's works lying around in the artist's studio. This gave the curator the idea to put up Pasilan's paintings for the three-day fair. 
PHOTO BY Christa I. De La Cruz

"Dugtong 'yan e. Every page [is a] story. Kung ang ibang kuwento may mga letra sa papel, sa akin mga painting," he continues. Every piece, just a bit bigger than two bond papers put together, is a reflection of Pasilan's journey as an artist. The works are a mix of old and new creations, featuring the artist's signature style of guised human figures in different kinds of environments, from landscape backgrounds of rivers and fields to busy cityscapes.


"Dito ko na-realize na 'yon palang mga dati mo nang nakita, na-absorb mo siya, na-appreciate mo siya, ngayon lang lumalabas. Ibig sabihin naka-record lang pala sa utak mo tsaka heart. Hindi ko sinasadya e, kusang lumalabas," he says of the imagery that easily flows from his hands to the canvas.

For Neil Pasilan, each work is like a page in the diary of his life.
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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The walls in his studio in Mandaluyong is witness to all the creations of this prolific artist.
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason

Born and raised in Bacolod City, he started making art as a young man spending his days sculpting figures from clay. "Nung nagsisimula na akong mag-art, 'yong available na materyal sa Bacolod na pinakamura, clay lang. Sampung piso makabili ka na ng clay." From this raw material, he would make necklaces, pendants, and small masks; and sold them during festivals such as the Ati-Atihan every January in Kalibo and—of course—the Masskara Festival in his hometown every October. "Gypsy style, ladladlatag ka lang ng tela sa kalsada," he describes the experience as he went from one town to another with his crafts in his teen years. His collection later included small sketches and paintings, which he put in a DIY frame of illustration board. "Mas real art. Hindi ka nila kilala, walang involved na academics. Basta gawa akong crafts ko dito; kung bilhin nila, 'yan ang pinaka-bonus."

Pasilan started out making pendants out of clay in his teens.
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
He also makes haunting figures from terracotta.
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
"Lahat ay kuwento," Pasilan says about his paintings on paper.
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason

Pasilan is an artist of the streets, focusing on making art day in and day out, whether there's an upcoming exhibit or not. "Kung totoo kang artist talaga, gagawa ka every day—practice. Hindi ko naman inisip na magiging show, gawa ka lang nang gawa. Ang ibang artist gagawa lang ng art pag may show. Kung school 'yan, andami mo nang absent.” And Pasilan—a self-taught artist—never missed one day.

Art Fair Philippines 2020 runs from February 21 to 23 at The Link, Parkway Drive, Ayala Center, Makati City. Tickets, priced at P350, are available through Art Fair Philippines’ website.

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